Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rome, Ga. Honors Fire Victims

The friends and classmates of four Winecoff fire victims gather on the covered back porch of the town's nicest country club - its golf course splayed out before them - to hear the words. Amid the white columns they mingle. Sixty years on, their lives are entwined the way they inevitably become in a small town. They all know each other's virtues. They even know each other's faults. Few care anymore; most all has been forgiven - they are still bound - sixty years on.
The speaker takes the podium and asks that the day begin with prayer, and it does - from a victim's best friend. He knew them all. They hear what they came to hear. That their lesson will be taught anew. They hear and see that the cast brass plaque they scrimped and saved for so many decades ago has been carefully restored to its original luster. The one with the names on it. The one that honors the victims, their lost friends, the four boys from Rome.
They all remember the day and the grueling uncertainty of not knowing who would return from Atlanta and the scorched ruins of The Winecoff Hotel. The day that binds them still.
They also hear that a new memorial is almost ready to be placed, right downtown, in a sidewalk, in a public place and on public land.
They hear the words of a survivor. They receive the thanks from grateful kin. Their loved ones are remembered.
They watch as candles are lit in honor of the boys and then extinguished with care. They know it is their friends who bind them - the ones who are not there.

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